Wearside Echoes: ‘He sailed all over the world and loved it’

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A TREASURE trove of early 20th century photos of Sunderland has just been unearthed.

River scenes, shopping streets and beach views are all included in the haul of nostalgic memorabilia, to be donated to Sunderland Antiquarian Society by Barbara McHugh.

“I believe they were originally owned by my uncle, Joe Donkin, who used to live in Canon Cockin Street,” said Barbara, 72, who lives just off Hylton Road.

“He passed them on to his brother, my father, when he died – and dad kept them for years. Eventually he passed them on to me, and I’ve had them for years as well.”

The six scenic shots include pictures of “Sea Bank and Holey Rock at Roker,” horse-drawn trams in Fawcett Street circa 1880 and 1890, and a pre-1927 photo of Wearmouth Bridge.

Two of the images – both featuring the Riverside Quays in about 1935 – were taken by amateur photographer William Waples, who used to tour Sunderland with his heavy quarter-plate camera.

“I don’t know where the pictures came from originally; maybe they were part of a book or a calendar,” said Barbara. “I just know that my dad had them for years.”

Barbara’s father, James Donkin, was born in Sunderland’s Barbary Coast just after the First World War and joined the merchant navy after leaving school.

He went on to have 11 children after marrying his sweetheart, Dora, and served as a merchant sailor during the Second World War before giving up the sea to work in Sunderland’s shipyards.

“My dad sailed all over the world, and loved it. I remember we always used to meet him when he came home, and he always had loads of chocolate for us – and stories too,” said Barbara.

“He kept these old pictures of Sunderland for years before he died. But, when he started getting poorly, he gave them to me and I’ve had them ever since.

“I’ve never had them on display, but I’ve always kept them safe. Now that I’m getting older, though, I felt that I wanted them to go to a good home – somewhere where they would be safe.

“I’ve always enjoyed looking at these old pictures and seeing the changes that have taken place over the years.

“By donating them to the Antiquarians, other people will be able to see them in the future too.”

l Wearside Echoes would like to point out that the Gilpin Press was started in 1915, not 1960 as stated in last Saturday’s article.

Jack Grimes and his business partner Mr Clement launched the printing business in an old stocking factory at the Pottery Yard in Houghton.

The firm was known as Clement and Grimes, although it was registered as the Gilpin Press. The firm traded until 1970, before being sold on.